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[theburmanetnews] BurmaNet News: Ap
Subject: [theburmanetnews] BurmaNet News: April 5, 2000
________________ THE BURMANET NEWS _________________
/ An on-line newspaper covering Burma \
\________________ www.burmanet.org ___________________/
April 5, 2000
Issue # 1502
Noted in Passing:
"There are those who say that nothing works. There are
those who claim that the help of the international
community is not going to make democratization come any
earlier to Burma. This is not so. The help of the
international community does make a difference."
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (See ASSK: MESSAGE TO UN
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS)
AFP: AUNG SAN SUU KYI BLASTS JUNTA
ASSK: MESSAGE TO UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
ABC NEWS NIGHTLINE: SHOULD UNOCAL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE
FOR BURMESE GOVERNMENT'S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
AGAINST PEOPLE WORKING ON NATURAL GAS PIPELINE
DPA: MYANMAR OPENS "TAX-FREE" MARKETS TO CURB INFLATION
MTBR: ASEAN MINISTERIAL MEETING
PUCHATKAN (Thailand): BURMA STEPS UP ENFORCEMENT OF
IMPORT BAN ON THAI PRODUCTS
NATION: FROM THE EDGE: BURMA AND UNOCAL IN DOCK IN US
THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK) : US STEPS IN TO HELP CASE
TO FREE BURMA PRISONER -; POWERFUL ALLIES FOR JAMES
AFP: MYANMAR STUDENTS START NEW LIFE IN THE WEST
___________________ INSIDE BURMA ______________________
AFP: AUNG SAN SUU KYI BLASTS JUNTA
BANGKOK, April 5 (AFP) - Opposition leader Aung San Suu
Kyi on Wednesday accused Myanmar's junta of sacrificing
the country's youth in a brutal climate of human
rights abuses spawned by its determination to cling to power.
In a message to the United Nations Human Rights
Commission, the Nobel laureate said the military, which has ruled
since 1962, was guilty of a catalogue of social, economic
and educational abuses.
"For the military regime, the most important thing
is to keep their hold on power, not to loose their grip
on power," she said in the message smuggled
out of Myanmar and released in Bangkok.
"In order to keep their grip on power they are
prepared to sacrifice the future of our young people,"
Aung San Suu Kyi said the closure of universities by
authorities fearing unrest in what they consider hotbeds
of militancy would have serious consequences for Myanmar's future.
Especially damaging, she said was the division
between schools patronised by the military
which have remained open and those used
by the public, which are mostly closed.
"This does not augur well for the future of our
country. We will become a house divided. We will
become a nation made up of two classes, the military
elite and the rest."
In the speech, Aung San Suu Kyi faulted the
military's defences of its human rights record,
in which it "tries to separate political rights from
economic, social and cultural rights."
She said Myanmar's apalling economic problems
stemmed from bad governance and poor macroeconomic
policies which remain unchallenged in the absence of a
legislature to monitor government policy.
"Economic improvements cannot be brought about until
there is a certain extent of political rights on the
part of the people," she said.
Despite international outrage at the regime the
plight of the people of Myanmar, formerly Burma,
was little changed, she warned.
"The situation of human rights in Burma is not
getting better. It seems to be getting worse.
The greater the people desire
democracy, the more frantic
the military regime becomes to oppress them."
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won
an overwhelming victory in elections in 1990 which the military has
refused to recognise. It characterises her frequent
attacks on its regime as the words of a traitor to
the country in cahoots with the government's enemies in the West.
The message was due to be played at the commission
in Geneva on Wednesday afternoon, three days after
Myanmar condemned as "highly biased" and "derogatory"
a report by the United Nations special rapporteur for human
rights accusing Yangon of widespread rights violations.
The report "ignored the most important fact that the
entire population of nearly 50 million Myanmar people
are enjoying peace, stability and better
living conditions for the first time in their life. Any
objective observer could testify to this," a government
The special rapporteur's report was submitted to the
UN Commission on Human Rights on March 30.
"The adoption by the government of Myanmar of
military solutions to political problems ... continues
to generate a pattern of gross and
systematic human rights violations," it read.
"Myanmar's ethnic and religious minorities such as
the Karen, Karenni, Shan and Rohingyas continue to suffer severe
including arbitrary arrest, killings, forced labour in the army and
trafficking of women."
ASSK: MESSAGE TO UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
EMBARGO UNTIL APRIL 5TH, 2000. 5 P.M. BKK TIME /NOON
GENEVA TIME The following video message will premiere
at the public meeting held at Room 25, UN Palais des
Nations, Geneva,in parallel to the 56th Session of the
Commission on Human Rights. For more information call
66 1 859 5193 during business hours in Geneva.
DAW AUNG SAN SUU KYI MESSAGE TO THE 56TH SESSION OF THE UN
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
GENEVA, MARCH 2000 It is now almost a decade since
the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has been
looking into the state of human rights in Burma. We are
duly grateful for all that has been done over the years
but of course much remains to be done. One of the main
problems is that the present military regime tries to
separate civil and political rights from economic,
social and cultural rights. We would like to point out
that this cannot be done. Economic, social and
cultural rights are inextricably linked to political
and civil rights. If we look at the state of the
Burmese economy today, it is clear that the main
troubles are due to mismanagement - mismanagement by
the administration. We have said again and again that
the state of the Burmese economy is due largely to bad
governance. Until there is good governance, our economy
cannot be improved. The observations of trained
economists and international financial institutions
have pointed out that the main troubles of the Burmese
economy are due to the lack of proper macroeconomic
policies on the part of the military regime. It is due
to such factors as an unreasonable and unrealistic rate
of exchange. In a democratic country, such things would
not be allowed to pass because there would be a
democratic assembly representing the peoples' interest
which would call the ruling government to order. So
economic improvements cannot be brought about until
there is a certain extent of political rights on the
part of the people. 
As for cultural, social and
economic matters, how can we separate them from
politics? Our country is made up of many ethnic
nationalities. Their rights have to be guarded by the
government. The rights of ethnic nationalities include
the right to develop their own culture, to develop
their own kind of social system. In Burma today,
although the military regime claims that it has
achieved unity with the ethnic nationalities, the truth
is that our ethnic nationalities are suffering greatly
from repression of all kinds. For example in the Mon
state, in recent years since this military regime came
to power, the teaching of Mon language in schools has
been prohibited. Now if this is not an infringement of
the cultural rights of an ethnic people, what is.
Language is very important.
Language is one of the most
important parts of any cultural package. If a people
are not allowed to teach their own language how are
they expected to pass on their cultural heritage. This
is just an example of the kind of social and cultural
injustice that exists in Burma today.  In order to
remove these injustices, the ethnic nationality
peoples, like the rest of the people of Burma must be
given a voice. They must be given a right to express
their opinions, to be able to work for their
aspirations, to be able to enjoy the full rights of
citizens of a free democratic nation. The Burmese
people who constitute the majority in Burma also suffer
from a grave lack of human rights. If we cannot remedy
this situation soon, our country will get poorer and
poorer. Our country will get poorer not just in
material terms. We are not talking about foreign
exchange reserves. We are not talking about gold
reserves. What we are talking about is our people. We
are going to get poorer in terms of human resources.
This is mainly because this regime pays so very little
attention to the education of our people.
military regime, the most important thing is to keep
their hold on power, not to lose their grip on power.
In order to keep their grip on power they are prepared
to sacrifice the future of our young people.
Universities in Burma have been shut over the last few
years. Some universities, some faculties were opened,
reopened for a short period. Some are opened at the
moment. But in general the universities of Burma remain
shut. There is also the dangerous development that
members of the armed forces are educated separately.
Medical colleges and engineering colleges are kept
opened for members of the armed forces while the
civilian population is deprived of higher education.
This does not augur well for the future of our country.
We will become a house divided. We will become a nation
made up of two classes, the military elite and the
rest. This does not augur well either for the military
or for the civilians.  A nation can progress and
prosper only when there is unity, and only when there
is a general acceptance among the people that there is
justice. In no country can justice be guaranteed a
hundred percent. Even in established democracies a
continuous effort has to be made to uphold justice,
equality, and human rights. In a country like ours
which is totally crushed by a military regime, justice
is a dream. But it is a dream that we are determined to
realize. This is why we are working for democracy in
Burma. And this is why we ask the world to support our
cause. There are those who say that nothing works.
There are those who claim that the help of the
international community is not going to make
democratization come any earlier to Burma.
This is not
so. The help of the international community does make a
difference. This military regime understands, like all
governments in all countries understand today, that no
country can remain separate from the rest of the world.
There are so many links - economic, cultural. Mainly
economic and of course scientific [and] technological
[links] between the nations of the world that whether
we like it or not, we would not be able to undo those
things, they will remain, and because of that the
international community can help greatly to bring about
the fast democratization of our country. Our people
are the most precious resource that we have. There are
many people who talk about the natural resources of
Burma. They keep on saying, particularly the military
regime, keeps on harping on the rich natural resources
of our country. For us the richest resource is the
human one. It is our people who are precious to us. If
a people are uncared for and uneducated, they will not
be able to do anything about using the natural
resources for the good of the nation. So our first care
is our people. We want to make sure that our people
enjoy security, enjoy freedom and they enjoy the right
to advance themselves. That is to say they enjoy the
right to education. Health and education for us are
the two most important things. And we want to provide
our people with good health care, good education. And
to do that we need an accountable, transparent
government. A government that is not there to oppress
the people but to do the best that it can for the
We want a system whereby the people are allowed to
judge whether or not the government in power is
actually working for the good of the nation or simply
for the good of that government itself.  For this
right many people in Burma have made many sacrifices.
In spite of the scrutiny of international community,
violations of human rights in Burma continue. It
continues at a disgraceful rate. Quite recently, a man
in his 70s was sentenced to two years imprisonment
because he had listened to the Voice of America on the
radio. While he was under trial his wife, also elderly
and unwell, died because she was so troubled by the
pressure exerted on them by the authorities. In which
country of the world are people so oppressed that
listening to a radio service serves them with two years
of imprisonment? 
So please understand that the
situation of human rights in Burma is not getting
better. It seems to be getting worse. The greater the
people desire democracy, the more frantic the military
regime becomes to oppress them, to try to dissuade them
from working for democracy; which is why the greater
our peoples' desire for democracy, the greater the need
for help from the international community. Please do
not forget that instability in one part of the world
could spread very rapidly these days. I hope that the
world would be able to take an example of what happened
recently in East Timor and learn to help when help is
needed and not only when help is overdue. I would like
to thank you very much on behalf of the peoples of
Burma and on behalf of the democratic forces who are
struggling that not just our country but the world may
be a safer, freer place for all peoples of the world.
NOTES  Examination of budget allocations makes
clear the SPDC's priority for military spending and the
lack of concern for the well being of the general
According to the World Bank, use of public
hospitals and dispensaries has fallen by 80% in the
last 10 years due to an extraordinarily low budgetary
outlay of 0.2%. Current government spending for
education as a share of national income "is among the
lowest in the world." For schoolchildren between the
ages of 5-9, the government spent 1,200 kyat (about 3.5
US dollars) per child in 1990/91. This has fallen to
100 kyat (0.30 US dollars) in 1999/2000. Rather than
improve this situation, the military regime has
announced a supplementary budget to cover this year's
deficit, and it includes more spending for construction
and defense. Additional expenditure is as follows:
a) Construction:12.69 billion kyat ($39.05 million)
b) Defense: 6.27 billion kyat ($19.29 million)
c) Education 1.357 billion kyat ($4.17 million)
d) Health 1.085 billion kyat ($4.38 million)
Diplomats have commented that much defense spending is
not included in official figures, indicating that
actual spending for the military is much higher. If
looking at official figures alone, defense spending
equals 16 times the amount spent on health.
INFORMATION FROM: * Myanmar: An Economic and Social
Assessment, Talking points for Burma Roundtabe at Human
Rights Watch. Bradley Babson, Senior Advisor, World
Bank. 16 December 1999. * "Extra Burmese budget big on
army spending," The Nation. 21 March 2000. P A7. 
In order to maintain and develop Mon culture, the New
Mon State Party (NMSP) established approximately 250
schools before signing a cease-fire agreement with the
SLORC in 1995. After signing the agreement, Mon
communities assumed that they would be able to continue
building more schools, and the NMSP officially
requested the SLORC to allow the teaching of Mon
language in government schools.
The SLORC denied this
request, but said Mon schools could be built. As the
Mon education improved, many students from government
schools moved to attend Mon schools, prompting the
regime to begin closing the Mon schools. For example,
in October 1999, an order was sent to close a Mon
school operating out of a monastery in Kwan-tar
village, Mudon Township, Mon State. The order came
from Military Intelligence, and the Chairman of the
local Peace and Development Council was responsible for
carrying out the order. The day after the order was
issued, the village headman called a meeting with all
students' parents and explained that the school had to
close because it was an illegal institution and
teaching of Mon language was also illegal.
* The Mon Forum, issue no 11/99, November 30, 1999.
 Between 1988 and 1996, universities were open for a
total of only 30 months. After December of 1996, they
were completely closed until recently. In December
1999, some campuses were opened, but were moved to
locations outside the cities. Such conditions made it
difficult, if not impossible, for many students to
attend. Much depends on their financial capacity to pay
for transportation from their homes or for
accommodations near the university. At some
universities, students were made to sign papers
promising not to engage in any political activity. They
were warned that if there were any demonstrations,
campuses would be closed again. Indeed, some campuses
have already closed. Some universities were
restructured to become "Government Technical Colleges"
(GTC) which reduced the university degrees from
university to college level. Students in Thanlyin and
Hmaw Bi (Rangoon Division) staged protests, calling for
cancellation of the new system and improved teaching
environments. As a result, those GTCs were closed.
* ABSDF Media Release, "The ABSDF calls for the
reopening of all universities and for better
education" 6 February 2000. * NCUB: Letter to UNESCO-
Reopen the Universities, National Council of the Union
of Burma Foreign Affairs Committee. 17 January 2000.
 As mentioned in Note , there is a clear lack of
commitment by the military regime in Burma to taking
care of the health and educational needs of the general
population, and the repercussions are severe.
Approximately 35% of the population has no access to
public primary health care services of any kind. There
is an HIV/AIDS crisis in Burma. While the regime claims
that only 25,000 people have tested positive for HIV in
Burma, the UN AIDS program has cited 440,000 as a more
realistic figure. Official SPDC statistics say the
maternal mortality rate is 1.00 urban and 1.7 rural per
1000 live births. Other sources, however, have
indicated much higher, at 517 per 100,000 live births.
The under-5 mortality rate in 1997 was 114, and Burma
has the 3rd highest mortality rate in Asia, behind
Cambodia and Laos. INFORMATION FROM: * Alternative
Perspectives, Other Voices: Assessing Gender Equality
in Burma. Submission to the 23rd session of the
Committee of the Convention on Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Images Asia.
? Report on the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women, The Union of
Myanmar. March 1999. * State of the World's Children
1999 UNICEF.  On 18 December 1999, U Than Chaun,
the 70-year old proprietor of a coffee shop in Shwe-
goo township, Kachin State, was arrested and his
radio which was tuned to the Voice of America
(Burmese broadcast) was seized. On 19 January 2000,
he was charged and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment
under Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code. U Than
Chaun's wife was suffering from heart ailment and
high blood pressure, and she passed away while he
was in prison. He himself suffers medical problems
which have now become life threatening.
NLD Statement 21 (2/00) (translation).
VCDs of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's message are
available for USD12 incl. postage and handling.
These VCDs can be played a MPEG on PCs with CD, or
on VCD/DVD players with PAL system. Pls allow 3-5
weeks for delivery, depending on your location.
ABC NEWS NIGHTLINE: SHOULD UNOCAL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE
FOR BURMESE GOVERNMENT'S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
AGAINST PEOPLE WORKING ON NATURAL GAS PIPELINE
ABC NEWS: NIGHTLINE (11:35 PM AM ET)
March 28, 2000, Tuesday
ANCHORS: AARON BROWN
REPORTERS: DAVE MARASH
Announcer: March 28th, 2000.
AARON BROWN, host:
The defendant, a huge
US energy company building a pipeline in a country
known for its brutal dictatorship.
Mr. JOHN IMLE
(Former President, Unocal): When I'm visiting
these people in these villages, they say, 'We're
glad you're here, please stay.'
plaintiffs, a dozen peasants who say they were
brutalized by the troops guarding that pipeline.
Unidentified JANE DOE #1: (Through translator)
They took our chickens, then burned down the house
and arrest the people.
DAVE MARASH reporting:
When you worked, were you always paid?
Unidentified Man #1: (Through translator) No, I
never got paid.
BROWN: It could be a precedent
Ms. JENNIFER GREEN (Center for
Constitutional Rights): You can't have two people
in the same business operation, one of them being
clean and the other one playing dirty and, you
know, without them both being held responsible.
Mr. IMLE: We--we cannot--I cannot, personally,
take responsibility for the conduct of the
government of Burma, anymore than I can take
responsibility for the conduct of the--of the Los
Angeles Police Department. BROWN: Tonight, The
Peasants vs. Unocal, right and wrong in an ugly
corner of the world. Announcer: From ABC News,
this is NIGHTLINE. Substituting for Ted Koppel and
reporting from Washington, Aaron Brown. BROWN:
Life, at least for a reporter, would be a lot
easier if the good guys all wore white hats and
the bad guys wore dark hats and no one wore gray
hats at all. Life, including tonight's broadcast,
doesn't work that way. There are all sorts of
shades of gray here. Most of the essential facts
are not in dispute. Unocal, the giant American
energy company is working with the government of
Burma on a massive natural gas pipeline. And both
Unocal and the Burmese government stand to make a
lot of money on the deal. That's fact. It is also
fact that the Burmese government is autocratic and
undemocratic. Its human rights record is shameful.
Most of the world would describe the government's
treatment of its own people as criminal. Now some
of the gray. Does doing business with the Burmese
government mean Unocal is in some way legally
responsible for the government's evil acts from
forced relocations to the allegations of slave
labor to torture and rapes? Or might it be that
Unocal is trying to do good in a bad place;
providing jobs to hundreds, thousands of people
who are dirt poor? Does American participation
give legitimacy to a ruthless government? Or does
its presence restrain that government from
behaving even more ruthlessly? Those questions
are not new. They have come up before. But never
has a case like this ended up in court. The
government's alleged victims suing the American
company in American courts. The outcome could have
profound impact on all American companies doing
business abroad. And that is fact, too. The case
is John Doe vs. Unocal, and it's reported tonight
by NIGHTLINE's Dave Marash.
Mr. IMLE: There is a
lot of oil in this world, a lot of oil reserves.
And in the field of natural gas, fortunately for
the world, and for our environment, there's also a
lot of natural gas around the world.
(VO) As John Imle, the former president of the
California energy giant Unocal notes, planet Earth
is awash in natural gas. For the world's energy
companies this means, as Unocal executives told
their stockholders, quote, "The challenge of the
future is not finding the opportunities, but
deciding which ones to pursue."
philosophy, it's curious, but Unocal has chosen to
seek its opportunities across this nervously
guarded border over there in Burma. By choosing
Burma, one of the world's most notoriously
repressive military dictatorships, as a place to
do big business, Unocal has brought on itself big
Unidentified Protester #1: Unocal!
Group of Protesters: (In unison) Out of Burma.
Protester #1: Unocal!
Group of Protesters: (In
unison) Out of Burma.
MARASH: (VO) This is small
trouble, but symptomatic of worse to come.
Protester #1: Unocal! Group of Protesters: (In
unison) Out of Burma. MARASH: (VO) For five
years now, human rights activists and maverick
stockholders representing 295 Catholic,
Protestant, and Jewish organizations have been
fighting Unocal's Burmese investments, posing
embarrassing public questions like these...
Father JOSEPH LaMAR: Why did you go into a country
that was known to have egregious human rights
violations on the part of this lower government
there? Why do you even go in there? Protester
#1: (Foreign language spoken)
MARASH: (VO) Over
the second half of the '90s, brand name American
companies like Compaq, Apple, Disney, Pepsi,
Kodak, and Motorola found that they had no good
answer to those questions. So they all left Burma.
And so did energy companies Texaco and Arco.
Today, Unocal is the last major American company
in Burma, holding out against what it insists is
unfair political pressure.
Why did Unocal choose to develop resources in Myanmar, Burma?
Mr. IMLE: Initially, what we recognized there was A,
the existence of the natural gas resources; and B,
the existence of a market within pipeline
MARASH: And, of course, Burma offered
a steady supply of cheap, local labor. It's that
labor pool, and how it was recruited, paid and
treated, that is at the heart of a precedent-
setting lawsuit filed by a dozen Burmese peasants
against Unocal and two of its top executives. They
find themselves in the uncomfortable position of
having to defend themselves in court against
charges of complicity in crimes against humanity,
including forced labor, forced relocation of
villagers, torture, beatings, even rape.
Unidentified Man #2: (Through translator) I had to
carry their ammunition. They put thousands of
bullets in a basket and they threw in their
sandals and rice and everything else. The load was
so heavy, I couldn't even stand up without a
friend's help. I was so thirsty, but I had no
water. So I sucked in the sweat that was pouring
down my face.
Mr. TYLER GIANINNI (Earthrights
International): The stories are the same. They've
been consistent for more than a decade. It's the
MARASH: (VO) Tyler Gianinni is a
lawyer representing the plaintiffs against Unocal.
Mr. GIANINNI: It's the same stories of rape, of
forced labor, of forced relocations, people having
to move from their lifelong homes, of having to
carry ammunition and food for the military and
build their camps. And if you don't cooperate,
you're tortured or you could disappear or you're
killed instantly on the spot.
#3: (Through translator) Since the pipeline work
started in 1994, villagers have been relocated. I
saw people suffering. The pipeline caused increase
in all kinds of forced labor. I experienced that.
MARASH: (VO) Unocal's defense? These stories have
nothing to do with us. We're just investors. Our
French partner, Total, operates the project. And
the crimes against humanity, if they happened,
were allegedly committed by the Burmese military
or the Burmese government.
Los Angeles federal
court Judge Richard Paez rejected these arguments
to dismiss the case, ruling that cases involving
allegations of human rights abuses against
American corporations and their officers can be
heard in US courts. Quote, "Plaintiffs allege the
defendants have paid and continue to pay the
government of Burma to provide labor and security,
accepting the benefit of, and approving the use
of, forced labor. The allegations of forced labor
in this case," he wrote, "are sufficient to
constitute an allegation of participation in slave
Ms. GREEN: What we're hoping that this
case does is establish a precedent that--that
companies--that there are human rights standards
which govern how companies do business in
countries around the world. So, there can't be a
situation where they can pick up and move to the
location which in fact shows the least respect for
human rights violations, which is what Unocal is
doing in Burma.
Ms. DEBORAH SPAR: If Unocal had
taken into effect all of the political
implications that were going to follow upon this
investment, I think it changes the calculus
MARASH: (VO) Deborah Spar uses the
Unocal case in her classes at the Harvard Business
Ms. SPAR: I think the lawsuit is hugely
important, not just for Unocal, but for any
American multinational corporation. If this suit
goes ahead and if the plaintiffs win, it changes
the political calculus for any multinational
corporation. It means that making investments in
places like Burma become much more risky.
MARASH: Each side seems to see this case through
an aphorism. Unocal's critics accuse 'You lie down
with dogs, you get up with fleas,' while Unocal
complains, 'No good deed goes unpunished.'
BROWN: So, are Unocal and its accusers talking
about the same set of facts? We'll find out in
part two of Dave Marash's report when we come
Announcer: This is ABC News: NIGHTLINE,
brought to you by... (Commercial break)
MARASH: (VO) The military junta that runs Burma
has long been a pariah to global advocates for
human rights. Mr. GIANINNI: The United Nations
has condemned the regime annually for most of this
decade for its human rights records, and so have
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, other
organizations. MARASH: (VO) After seizing power
in a bloody coup in 1988, the generals further
ruined their reputations by aborting the clear-cut
1990 election victory of Burma's pro-democracy
party and keeping under house arrest its Nobel
Peace Prize-winning leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Ms. AUNG SAN SUU KYI: The goal is this one: We
want a democratic government elected by the
MARASH: (VO) Among Burma's most
consistent critics has been the US State
Department. Year after year, the department's
annual human rights reports have detailed the same
crimes, quote, "including rape, forced labor, and
extra judicial killing. Disappearances continue."
And year after year, these abuses have been
quietly documented and are reflected annually in
judgments like this. Quote, "The people of Burma
continue to live under a highly repressive
authoritarian military regime, widely condemned
for its serious human rights abuses."
When UNOCAL is making the decision, "Do we want to go
in here?" first off, what kind of credence, what
kind of role in your considerations--your
corporate considerations do things like the State
Department human rights reports play? Do you
Mr. IMLE: No. We don't dismiss any
information about a country where we're thinking
about investing. But, as I said earlier, the main
things we look for are economic opportunity, which
must be accompanied by--by a climate in which we
can perform our business as an island of
integrity, no matter what's going on around us, to
our own standards.
MARASH: (VO) On UNOCAL's
legal map of Burma, there is an island of
integrity--the stripe its pipeline cuts across
Mr. IMLE: There's a lot going on
in that area that we're very proud of.
MARASH: (VO) UNOCAL has a ready list and a ready supply of
videotaped evidence of the company's good deeds in
behalf of 40,000 people living in the pipeline
Mr. JOHN IMLE: First, direct employment,
which is important, because employment and
economic opportunity is a human right. I say after
that medical facilities. Twelve full-time doctors
in an area that had no doctors. MARASH: (VO) No
one disputes the pipeline company's good deeds,
often put on display for visiting congress people,
journalists, and even a pair of human rights
professionals. But the plaintiffs assert in their
lawsuit that UNOCAL's island of integrity is
sustained by a surrounding sea of human rights
abuses. Unidentified Man #4: (Through
translator) The company works with the Burmese
army. The army uses people's labor to build roads
to get to the pipeline. The army brought us to the
pipeline area to work. We had to build the
helipad. We had to carry the rations. MARASH:
(VO) We've concealed the identity of this man and
of all the other Burmese plaintiffs in the UNOCAL
case in observance of a protection order issued by
John Doe #11: (Through translator)
We have to go work for the railroad. We have to go
work in the battalion compound and we have to work
as porters. In one year, I think I had to go more
than 10 times.
MARASH: When you worked, were you
always paid? John Doe #11: (Through translator)
No. I never got paid.
Mr. IMLE: I am sure that
the military uses conscripted labor for porterage.
And I--I know that in the early days of the
execution of this project, military units in the
area of the project were using conscripted labor.
MARASH: (VO) But, says Imle, not anymore, a claim
disputed by one of the plaintiffs, John Doe No.
11. John Doe #11: (Through translator) That's
not true. They continue to force people to work
for them. After I left, people from my village
still had to work. They told us about it.
IMLE: We cannot and I cannot personally take
responsibility for the conduct of the government
of Burma any more than I can take responsibility
for the conduct of the--of the Los Angeles Police
Department. I can take responsibility for what
goes on in our pipeline area.
MARASH: (VO) To
plaintiffs' attorney Jenny Green, that argument is
Ms. GREEN: And you, my business
partner, you're going to take responsibility for
making sure that the military barracks are built,
that the helipad is built, that--that enough
soldiers are in the area to guard this pipeline.
And you can do whatever you want. But I'm not
responsible because it's--it's this other person.
And US law is particularly designed to say you
can't have two people in the same business
operation, one of them being clean and the other
one playing dirty and, you know, without them both
being held responsible.
BROWN: UNOCAL faces its
accusers in part three of Dave Marash's report in
just a moment. (Commercial Break) Unidentified
Man #5: (Through translator) A military officer
came to my village and recruited the villagers.
MARASH: (VO) This man, a deserter, tells how he
was recruited by the Burmese army just south of
the pipeline zone. Man #5: (Through translator)
We all had to enter a drawing. If you drew "to
serve," you could not refuse. MARASH: (VO) As a
soldier, he says, he supervised workers who were
treated like slaves. And the porters' work, was
it connected with protecting the pipeline at all?
Man #5: (Through translator) They brought porters
from the south to the pipeline area, where they
were assigned to different military units--some to
carry supplies, some for other work. I have seen
old men struggle with heavy loads. I have seen
them beaten and kicked into the valley because
they couldn't carry any more.
Jane Doe #1:
(Through translator) The happiest day of my life
is when we lived in our village. We could farm and
make a living and live among our relatives.
MARASH: (VO) Jane Doe No. 1 may be the plaintiffs'
most powerful witness against UNOCAL. She says her
village was uprooted to make way for the pipeline,
just as the deserter described. What did the
army do? Jane Doe #1: (Through translator) They
took all our rice, they took our chickens, then
they burned down the houses and arrested people.
MARASH: (VO) After her family had relocated, she
says, troops came to her new home looking for her
husband for forced labor.
Jane Doe #1: (Through
translator) They just punch and kick me and ask me
where my husband was. I lied and told them he was
away. So they punch me again and I lost a tooth. I
was breast feeding my baby at the time. So both
the baby and I fell into the fire. Then I passed
MARASH: When she regained consciousness,
what kinds of injuries had she and her baby
suffered? Jane Doe #1: (Through translator) I
was badly burned. Right on the baby's stomach,
there was a sore and she wouldn't let you touch
it. Every time she went to the bathroom, there was
blood and when she coughed, there was more blood.
MARASH: (VO) The baby died before Jane Doe No. 1
could get to a doctor. Is this something that
happens in Myanmar these days?
Mr. IMLE: I've
heard that story before. And it--it is an
incredible, sad and shocking story. And it--as a
parent, it touches me. I have followed up that
story to the extent that I am on the ground, that
I am very satisfied that that did not happen in
connection with this project. I'm absolutely
comfortable that there have been no relocations of
villages in the area of this pipeline for the
benefit of the pipeline.
MARASH: (VO) In
addition to the panoply of human rights problems
in Burma, there's another serious issue.
Mr. BARRY McCAFFREY (Directing Office, National Drug
Control Policy): It's just a huge dominant
influence on heroin production in the world.
Perhaps 17 percent of the heroin coming into the
United States probably comes out of Burma. Now it
is also producing methamphetamines in huge
volumes. So in terms of drug supply, it's a major
threat to its regional partners and to some extent
to the rest of the world.
Ms. MAUREEN AUNG TWIN:
The regime is--is in--I was going to say in bed
with the so-called rehabilitated drug lords.
MARASH: (VO) Maureen Aung Twin monitors Burma for
the Soros Foundation. She says constructive
engagement only subsidizes the military regime and
all its bad habits. Ms. AUNG TWIN: So they did
all these cease-fires with them, but what they've
done is they--they--part of the cease-fire was to
allow them to keep on producing, and they've
allowed them to pursue so-called legitimate
business in Rangoon. But, actually, it's just a
way to allow them to launder some of their moneys
in seemingly legitimate businesses. Group of
Protesters: (In unison) UNOCAL, out of Burma.
Mr. KELLY QUINN (Oil Chemical Atomic Workers
Union): Well, you know, sometimes a little street
theater, you know, can go a long way to influence
MARASH: (VO) This demonstration by
UNOCAL workers and other activists at the annual
stockholders meeting illustrates how Burma's drug
reputation is tarnishing UNOCAL's reputation.
Unidentified Protester #2: UNOCAL heroin. UNOCAL
Mr. QUINN: We actually distributed
fake heroin to stockholders entering their meeting
in '97 and business cards indicating that we were
sales representatives--heroin sales
representatives for UNOCAL.
MARASH: (VO) Harvard
professor Deborah Spar says the continuing public
argument is doing real damage to UNOCAL's moral
and business brands.
Ms. SPAR: Maybe not so much
on their bottom line, but certainly, this has also
been a time of--of pretty active stock market
increases and--and UNOCAL stock prices have been
MARASH: (VO) Spar suggests that
UNOCAL may want to bail out of Burma, but John
Imle says UNOCAL's staying.
Mr. IMLE: It's the
right to do. It's the wrong thing to do to cut and
run. And when I'm visiting these people in these
villages, they say, 'We're glad you're here.
Please stay.' Now what do I say to them if I
leave? Unidentified Man #6: (Through translator)
The way I understand it, the companies want to
work here in peace. But things don't go properly.
They have to cooperate with the military in order
to do business. But the consequences, the military
oppresses the people more and more and the people
are suffering badly.
MARASH: Clearly an unhappy
situation, but can UNOCAL be held responsible for
it? A judge and perhaps eventually a jury will
decide, and what a decision. The UNOCAL case could
be hugely significant. If the plaintiffs win,
future American investors will have to select
locations not just for their potential
profitability, but for their political morality.
I'm Dave Marash for NIGHTLINE in Washington.
BROWN: I'll be back in a moment.
BROWN: Finally tonight, a program note.
Tomorrow on "Good Morning America," the case of
Elian Gonzalez and the question of who is
responsible for his welfare. That's tomorrow on
"Good Morning America." That's our report for
tonight. I'm Aaron Brown in Washington. For all of
us here at ABC News, good night.
DPA: MYANMAR OPENS "TAX-FREE" MARKETS TO CURB
April 3, 2000, Monday, BC Cycle
Myanmar's (Burma's) junta launched "tax-free" food
markets for Yangon (Rangoon) residents at the
weekend in an effort to curb inflation, news
reports said Monday. At least two "tax free"
outdoor markets selling vegetables, meat and fish
products were opened Saturday in a bid to control
prices after the junta announced hikes in civil
servants' salaries last week, said the New Light
of Myanmar newspaper.
The markets offer goods
produced by state enterprises and large private
companies in an effort to cut out middlemen
traders and lower retail prices. The junta on
Friday addressed leaders of the local business
community to instruct traders to keep prices down
in the aftermath of the pay raises. Mass pro-
democracy demonstrations were sparked in Yangon in
1988 by the government's decision to demonetise
nearly half of the local currency, wiping out
millions' of people's savings.
protests, which were finally suppressed by a
brutal crackdown in September 1988, were partly
fuelled by declining economic conditions after 26
years of socialism. State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC) First Secretary Lieutenant General
Khin Nyunt visited the "tax free" markets this
weekend to check prices. Arrangements are underway
to open more such markets, he said.
MTBR: ASEAN MINISTERIAL MEETING
THE MYANMAR TIMES & BUSINESS REVIEW
Myanmar's first international weekly Journal
April 3 - 9 ,2000
Volume 1, No.5
AN ASEAN Economic Ministers' meeting is scheduled to be held for
the first time in Yangon on 2 May.
Trade and Economic Ministers from the 10 ASEAN nations plus the
Ministers from the ASEAN dialogue partner nations: China,
Korea and Japan will be attending.
A preparatory meeting for the AEM plus the three was held in
Yangon on 24 March to draw up a concrete action plan for the
The Yangon meeting is expected to discuss on the joint statement
issued at the last November informal summit of the ASEAN
head of states/government and their counterparts from Japan, Korea
A communiqu? é was then issued which urged greater East Asia
Cooperation in accelerating trade, investment and technological
Promoting tourism, and encouraging active participation in the
development of growth areas in East Asia, including the nations
of Mekong River Basin, were also stressed.
ASEAN and its dialogue partners have a range of issues under
discussion including the AFTA (ASEAN free Trade Area), AIA
(ASEAN Investment Area) and AICO (ASEAN Industrial
PUCHATKAN (Thailand): BURMA STEPS UP ENFORCEMENT
OF IMPORT BAN ON THAI PRODUCTS
Bangkok, in Thai 25 Mar 00 pp 1. 2
Translation by BBC SWB
Text of report by Thai newspaper 'Puchatkan' on 25th March
According to a report from Mae Sot District, Tak Province, since
the beginning of March the Burmese government has instructed its
import agencies to enforce the ban against 27 products, including
beverages, cosmetics, oil, and sugar, at all points of entry. The
Burmese government regards those products as unessential. The
import tax on some of those products is as high as 300 per
cent, while for some products the Thai exporters are required
to buy equal value of Burmese products in an attempt to
The report said despite the ban the prohibited products
continued to arrive in Burmese markets and constituted
the top 10 Thai exports to Burma. Thai businessmen
resorted to bribe minority groups and Burmese officials
and soldiers manning the goods transit points. The value
of the bribe totalled at least 20 per cent of the value
of imported lot, which enabled importers to avoid
having to pay the 200_300 per cent import tax.
Previously, the banned products were usually smuggled
through the Huai Muang pier or six or seven other
piers in the Mae Sot_Myawaddi area. There were at
least five piers along the Mae Sai_Thachilek border,
in addition to another pier which was operated by
the United Wa State Army and open around the clock.
Panithi Tangphati, president of the Board of Trade
of Tak Province who is a major exporter of seasoning
powder and oil to Burma via the Mae Sot_Myawaddi
border, said on 24th March the Burmese government
became more strict than normal with the import ban.
It informed the people in Myawaddi via various media
of the ban and dispatched officials to step up the
monitoring efforts. One vendor had all the banned
products confiscated before 70 per cent of them
were returned and the remaining 30 per cent
Some 270 Thai products are sold in Burmese markets,
but the ten biggest exports are palm oil, sandal
slippers, truck tires, cloth, seasoning powder,
bicycles, plastic articles, T_shirts, sarong,
NATION: FROM THE EDGE: BURMA AND UNOCAL IN DOCK
Two historic lawsuits ? '¶ grassroots activists versus transnational
corporations ? '¶ are taking place in the United States.
The Supreme Court in Washington DC is hearing arguments and will
decide if the Massachusetts Burma Law is constitutional. In
California, a Federal Court in Los Angeles will soon decide if it
proceed with or dismiss a lawsuit against oil giant Unocal brought by
Burmese victims of alleged human rights abuses.
On March 22, the Supreme Court, which takes up only one per cent of
the 10,000 cases referred to it annually, began hearing a suit filed
the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) ? '¶ an association of
600 US companies involved in foreign trade ? '¶ that the Burma
purchasing law passed by the State of Massachusetts in June 1996 is
The District Court of Massachusetts and the Appeals Court had
earlier ruled in favour of NFTC, which initiated the lawsuit in 1998
arguing that the statute, restricting state purchases from companies
that do business in Burma, violates US constitutional provisions
give the federal government exclusive power to set foreign policy and
regulate foreign commerce.
Joining in the debate are Japan and the European Union, which in
1998 had filed a suit against the Massachusetts law at the World
Trade Organisation, arguing that the state's legislation infringes
global freetrade policy that advocates procurement based solely on
price and performance, not political criteria. Pressured by its
partners, the US Administration filed a brief in support of the NFTC.
In their petition to the Supreme Court, Massachusetts lawyers argued
that a ruling against the Burma Law would go against the decisions
made by the people through legislatures about how their tax money
should be spent and therefore constitutes an infringement of local
democracy. The Massachusetts Burma Law, which is identical to the
one that helped bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa,
stipulates that companies that do business in Burma must add a 10 per
cent penalty to their bid against competing firms ? '¶ a
which virtually bars such companies from winning any state
procurement contracts (amounting to about US$2 billion annually).
According to William Bole, an American News Service journalist, the
heart of the debate is not Burma, but whether the state and local
governments can exercise their purchasing power against human
rights abusers around the globe. It is also a showdown between
transnational corporations and grassroots activists, between global
trade and local sovereignty.
If the Supreme Court strikes down the Massachusetts law, similar
Burma statures passed by nearly two dozen cities and counties across
the US could be wiped from the books. Such a ruling will also have
farreaching consequences on identical selective purchasing laws
passed by municipalities, cities and the State of Vermont, targeting
China, Cuba, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Sudan, Tibet and
Switzerland (for the Swiss bank accounts once held by Holocaust
In a written reply to The Nation, Simon Billenness, a leading Burma
campaigner in the US, said if the Supreme Court upholds the lower
courts' decision, the Free Burma movement will push for other
different types of legislation including divestment laws that require
city and state pension funds to divest themselves of stock in
that do business in Burma. It will also continue with other campaigns
of consumer boycotts, shareholder resolutions, demonstrations,
lawsuits, federal sanctions, etc, added Billenness, a social activist
senior analyst of Trillium Asset Management ? '¶ a social investment
firm in Boston.
For Billenness, Burma campaigners "have already won one powerful
victory" in the lawsuit. "No US companies are talking about going
back to Burma even if the Supreme Court rules that the state and
local Burma laws are unconstitutional," he said. "Burma will remain a
country where almost all corporations will refuse to do business."
A final judgement by the ninemember Supreme Court is expected in
On the Pacific coast, the Federal Court in Los Angeles has
rescheduled to May 22 a hearing on whether to proceed with or
dismiss a lawsuit filed by 15 Burmese plaintiffs against Unocal and
two top executives. Unocal is a key contractor for the controversial
Yadana natural gas pipeline. It's unclear why the court decided to
postpone the oral argument sessions which were initially scheduled to
begin yesterday (April 4).
American lawyers working on behalf of the Burmese victims said they
do not know how long the pretrial process, known as "summary
judgement", will last. But if the court rules in favour of the
"there is nothing to stop us from going to the trial", said Tyler
Giannini, a lawyer with EarthRights International, which helped
bring the lawsuit against the American oil corporation.
Unocal has submitted a motion for the summary judgement to dismiss
the action, but the plaintiffs and their lawyers have responded that
transnational corporations can be held legally responsible for
of international human rights law in foreign countries and that the
courts have the authority to adjudicate such claims.
According to Giannini, "the oral arguments before the judge" by both
sides which is like "a little trial" can take as long as the judge
The summary judgement hearing is the second of a threephase civil
trial in the US and tests whether there is enough of a factual
between the litigants that reasonable people could find disagreement.
If they could, the case would be slated for a jury trial which is the
third and final phase.
On October 3, 1996, a group of 15 Burmese villagers, who were
subjected to human rights abuses associated with the construction of
the US$1.2billion (Bt31.2billion) Yadana pipeline project, filed suit
the Federal Court in Los Angeles against Unocal. The suit sought to
hold Unocal and its two executives liable for international human
rights violations, including forced labour, crimes against humanity,
torture, violence against women, arbitrary arrest and detention, and
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The plaintiffs have sought a court injunction ordering Unocal to stop
its activities and to pay compensation for the alleged abuses that
occurred as a result of the construction project. Unocal and its
Yadana partners, including the French oil firm Total, have rejected
charges against them, including complicity with the Burmese junta in
its human rights abuses.
On March 25, 1997, US Federal Court Judge Richard A Paez signed a
38page order accepting the plaintiffs' complaint ? '¶ the first
the litigation. The court rejected a motion by Unocal to dismiss the
case based on the argument that the matter was outside the
jurisdiction of the US court. The court's decision to grant
over Unocal set a "groundbreaking" precedent as it allowed victims,
for the first time, the right to sue multinational companies for
violations of international humanrights law, said plaintiff lawyers
Katherine Redford of EarthRights International and Jennie Green, a
staff attorney with the Centre for Constitutional Rights.
Jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims against the defendants was
granted under the 1792 Alien Tort Claims Act. The 200yearold law
allows lawsuits in US courts against multinational companies for
activities outside the US which violate international law. The tort
was previously applied only to environmental matters.
The March 25 decision allowed the plaintiffs to move into the second
phase of litigation, the civil discovery ? '¶ a process in which the
parties take testimonies from witnesses and exchange copies of
documents related to the Yadana project. In an interview last week,
Giannini said the discovery was completed last December and that
plaintiff lawyers had acquired "some 40,000 plus documents", a
number of which provided strong support to their case.
By Yindee Lertcharoenchok
The Nation (April 5, 2000)
THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK) : US STEPS IN TO HELP
CASE TO FREE BURMA PRISONER -; POWERFUL ALLIES FOR
April 5, 2000
Peter Mccusker THE might of the United States
government has joined the fight to free James
Mawdsley from jail in Burma. As James's 20-day
hunger strike came to an end last night it emerged
US officials have spoken to the British Government
about his case. James's mother Diana, of Durham
City, has been informed by a US State Department
official that it is pressing for James's release
on compassionate grounds.
A US Congressman has
also requested his release - and the United
Nations has been asked to censure Burma over his
treatment. Former Hexham schoolboy James, 27,
was jailed on September 1 for 17 years just hours
after entering Burma for the third time from
Thailand. He wants to appeal against the
sentence but has so far been denied a transcript
of his "trial" by the Burmese junta. He needs this
before he can lodge an appeal. James's hunger
strike was initiated in part to highlight the slow
progress of his attempted appeal. His family
were still awaiting news of his condition last
But details of the US government's
involvement in his case emerged yesterday. An
official for the State Department in Washington
told The Journal: "We are aware of this matter.
The US embassy in Rangoon is in touch and co-
ordinating with the British embassy in Rangoon.
The US government has been called upon by one of
its elected representatives to do something about
James Mawdsley." The State Department's
involvement stems from representations by
Congressman Frank Wolf. A spokesman in the
Washington office of Mr Wolf, representative for
Virginia, said he had been asked to approach the
Burmese ambassador to the US by Liberal Democrat
peer Lord Alton. He said: "Congressman Wolf was
informed of Mr Mawdsley's position by Lord Alton.
He is now very interested in the case and is very
concerned for James. He has written to the Burmese
ambassador specifying his concerns and asking for
Mr Mawdsley's release."
The State Department's
and Congressman Wolf's involvement has been
welcomed by James's family. Mrs Mawdsley, of
Brancepeth, said: "It's unusual for the US
government to become involved in a case of a non-
US citizen. But it's a very welcome development.
They have taken an interest, a big interest. I
have had a telephone call from the State
Department saying they want to help secure my
"A spokesman for the Foreign
Office confirmed they had spoken to US officials
and said 'it is not clear what role the US
authorities can or are intending to play. We are
providing full consular service to Mr Mawdsley as
he is a British citizen.''' The Jubilee
Campaign, which campaigns for democracy in Burma,
has submitted a report on the case to the UN
Commission for Human Rights. If the UNCHR
decides to accept the report it will ask the
Burmese to respond to Jubilee's submission, and
the Burmese are bound to reply within 90 days.
AFP: MYANMAR STUDENTS START NEW LIFE IN THE WEST
BANGKOK, April 5 (AFP) - More than 140 Myanmar
exiles have left a refugee camp in Thailand for
new lives in the West so far this year under a
program to resettlement in third countries, the
United Nations said Wednesday.
Some 144 students were moved from the tense
Manelooy holding centre in western Thailand in
the first quarter of the year, bringing to 262 the
number resettled abroad since last October, the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) said in a statement.
Thailand said it wanted around 2,000 students to
leave Manelooy for third countries following a
siege last year at Yangon's embassy in Bangkok by
armed rebels opposed to the Myanmar junta.
"We are steadily resettling people from Manelooy
in line with the government's request," said
Jahanshah Assadi, the UNHCR representative in
"UNHCR is particularly grateful to the US for its
expeditious and substantial intake," he said.
Other refugees went to Australia and Canada and
several other countries were considering
individual cases, the statement said.
Most of the exiles in the Manelooy camp fled here
after a bloody 1988 military crackdown on Myanmar
Their presence in Thailand was called into doubt
following the embassy siege and their position
became even more tricky when armed Myanmar rebel
gunmen seized a hospital in Ratchaburi in January,
holding hundreds of people hostage.
The crisis ended when Thai special forces stormed
the hospital and killed all 10 rebels.
As well as the students, Thailand is also home to
thousands of refugees, many from different ethnic
groups in Myanmar who have fled fighting between
government troops and insurgent groups.
Many more Myanmar citizens living in the country
are regarded as illegal immigrants by the Thai
government which launched a drive last year to
send illegal workers back across the border
The BurmaNet News is an Internet newspaper
providing comprehensive coverage of news and opinion on
For a subscription to Burma's only free daily
newspaper, write to: strider@xxxxxxx
You can also contact BurmaNet by phone or fax:
Voice mail +1 (435) 304-9274
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